Violent Night Review: David Harbour Shines as Badass Santa

Santa Claus is coming to town, and the night won’t be silent this time. Violent Night is an action-comedy set on the magical night of Christmas Eve. On a night when treetops glisten and children listen, a group of mercenaries led by Mr. Scrooge (John Leguizamo) takes a family hostage to steal $300 million from their safe. But there’s only one man standing in their way: a jolly old man in a red suit. This family’s only hope is the one and only Saint Nick (David Harbour), who must protect them from harm’s way in a bloody, bombastic time at the movies.

This film comes to us from 87North Productions, the company that brought us movies like Nobody and Bullet Train. Fortunately, this movie offers many of the same fun qualities, with brutal action that will make you say ho-ho-holy hell. With Bruce Willis’s retirement, the prospect of a new quality festive actioner has been hazy. However, the only person who can kill bad guys on Christmas Eve as effectively as John McClane is Father Christmas himself. This movie is an explosive combination of Die Hard and Home Alone, complete with John Leguizamo, who some may remember from his brief role as a terrorist in Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

With a premise like this, it’s hard not to have fun. This is a rarity in Hollywood—an original film not based on an existing IP that kicks so much ass and looks good while doing it. Violent Night offers bloody carnage at every turn and is not for the faint of heart. But for the action movie junkie and those with the stomach for a heap of blood and guts, this is the perfect cinematic experience. What sets this movie apart from the rest of the action genre is not the merry protagonist but the creativity and brutality of the kills.

This movie is inventive while sticking to the ingredients of what you know and love. There are explicit references to Home Alone in this movie, and it feels like an R-rated take on the premise. While the story can sometimes juggle too many storylines and characters, the movie remains focused on its awareness of what it wants to be. This screenplay from Pat Casey and Josh Miller (Sonic the Hedgehog) is ruthlessly efficient in its pacing, getting to the good stuff fast and offering a ton of belly laughs.

Director Tommy Wirkola maximizes his use of the premise, offering well-directed action sequences. The movie was produced by David Leitch, who helmed Deadpool 2 and Hobbs & Shaw. As the best action director working today, he could only hand the keys off to someone he trusted with the job. Wirkola kills it, offering gunfire, sledgehammers, and brutality, all in the name of Christmas joy. The simple story is brought to life by Harbour, who plays Santa Claus to perfection. This is far from your average mall Santa—he’s drinking alcohol, lamenting the lack of Christmas spirit these days, and smashing people into a pulp.

Harbour’s performance is sublime. He’s funny, threatening, and packs a punch in his fight scenes. The heart and soul of the movie is Santa’s relationship with a kid named Trudy (Leah Brady), and their scenes offer a ton of cute fun. The rest of the characters are hilarious as well, particularly Cam Gigandet as Morgan Steele, a wannabe action hero. Leguizamo’s villainous Mr. Scrooge has a backstory to make him more interesting, but when juxtaposed with the iconic Santa Claus, he ends up forgettable as a result.

But you can’t miss Violent Night. An action vehicle that doesn’t hold back for a bit, this is the movie that nobody knew they wanted but is now the movie we need. It’s a Christmas movie for the ages that may play on repeat every year as the new cult classic. While this won’t be for everyone, the insanity of this bonkers, action-packed Christmas movie is enough to bring people everywhere together to enjoy this movie over a cup of eggnog, a couple of cookies, and a whole lot of milk for Jolly Old Saint Nick.

SCORE: 8/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.”


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